First Lines From Books . . . Prompt #571

First lines from books can inspire writing. Choose one, or more, and Just Write! “My name is Ruth. I grew up with . . .” — Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson: “This was probably a mistake . . .” —Letters from Paris by Juliet Blackwell “With wobbly knees, I stood at the edge of the three-foot diving board.” —Beyond Recovery by Shawn Langwell “Marsh is no swamp. Marsh is a space of light, where grass grows in water, and water flows into the sky.” —Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens “The biggest irony about that night is that I was always scared to fly.” —How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

Just Write

First line and Write Towards What You Want To Know

Opening lines of books are so important, as you know. First lines should draw the reader in and inspire the reader to keep reading. Thanks to a book club friend who sent Colum McCann’s article to me, excerpted below. I also like his take on “write what you know.” Colum McCann: A first line should open up your rib cage. It should reach in and twist your heart backward. It should suggest that the world will never be the same again. The opening salvo should be active. It should plunge your reader into something urgent, interesting, informative. It should move your story, your poem, your play, forward. It should whisper in your reader’s ear that everything is about to change. But take it easy too. Don’t stuff the world into your first page. Achieve a balance. Let the story unfold. Think of it as a doorway. Once you get your…


My Dream Is…

By Susie Moses I dream of living for awhile in a cabin in a thick forest at the edge of a quiet lake, possibly in the North Woods of the Adirondacks or the wilds of Minnesota on the Canadian border, or maybe the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington.  Maine would work too. I will have a canoe, or these days, a kayak, easier to manage solo.  I will arise as the sun emerges, put on a jacket and knit cap against the morning chill, and insert myself into my boat for a silent tour of the shoreline. As I watch the light spread from the horizon, changing colors are reflected in the low-lying clouds as the sun burns off the fog. My lake will be sparsely populated, no jet skis or motor craft of any kind, just self-propelled canoes or kayaks, and at that early hour I…


Dinner Party . . . Prompt #570

“Imagine a dinner party post-pandemic. Which humans will be with you around the table? Where will it happen? What music will you listen to? What will you serve? What stories will you tell, what toasts will be made? What truths do you want—maybe need—to share? — Carla Fernandez Prompt inspired by Carla Fernandez, a creative entrepreneur and cofounder of The Dinner Party, the nation’s first community fighting the isolation of grief and loss for 20-40 somethings.  Her work has been featured on NPR, Good Morning America, and O Magazine, and as a case study in a dozen+ books. A Senior Innovation Fellow at USC, she was named one of the city’s “most fascinating people” by L.A. Weekly. She currently lives between Accord, NY, and Joshua Tree, CA, with her partner Ivan and rescue dog, Biscotti. Originally posted in Suleika Jaouad’s The Isolation Journals.


Sindee reveals her secret

The Chronicles of Sindee Volume 6:  Sindee reveals her secret By Su Shafer The moon was waxing, getting near to full. She could feel it growing in the night sky. The soft fluttering of wings inside, near her heart. Every night they grew more insistent and she knew that tomorrow night or maybe the next, they would take over: she would change. The fluttering inside made it hard to sleep. Sindee lay awake in her crib, staring at the patterns in the lace canopy. Stuffy was quiet beside her, but she didn’t think he was asleep. “Stuffy, are you asleep?” “No. Are you?” “Obviously not,” Sindee replied, annoyed. She sighed. Stuffy wasn’t the brightest sometimes, but given his tiny dinosaur brain, what could she expect? “I guess I should tell you something,” Sindee went on. “Something important, that I’ve been keeping secret.” “Oh boy, a secret!” Stuffy chirped, flapping his…


Hygge . . . Prompt #569

Hygge: “A quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being, regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture.” I bought some pasture-raised eggs the other day and was intrigued by the little information sheet tucked inside the egg carton: Naturally Hygge Hens “Without ever stockpiling cuddly blankets or chunky candles our hens instinctively practice the Danish art of hygee all winter long. Their pasture-raised lifestyle means crisp days spent together enjoying the simple things – tasty grasses, crunchy critters and warm sunshine. As evening falls, they rest in the safety and comfort of the barn. Days with friends and cozy nights with not a screen in sight!” (Vital Farms) Since then, I learned there is a Hygge Facebook page. The following is excerpted from the February 2017 issue of Charlotte at Home. How to achieve hygge at home Because simply defining the term with words like “coziness” and…


Letting Cancer Change Me

By Carol Harvey Eight years ago, I lay in an icy cold medical room, convinced that my presence there was a case of mistaken identity. I’d had a routine mammogram a week before and thought nothing of it. I was annoyed when I was called back for a second mammogram on the first day of my daughter’s spring break. We had plans to do something fun that day. This was not it. Immediately after the inconvenient mammogram I was steered into a biopsy room. I chatted with the doctor and radiology tech during the procedure and they answered my naive questions. I then explained that I couldn’t possibly have cancer because I was a self-employed single mom. In just a few months I was going to be an empty nester. Cancer or any life-threatening illness was just not part of that plan. Besides I felt fine. Right after I said…


The Inner Critic Tar Pit of Doom and Despair

By Su Shafer Beware the trap that writers often fall into: The Inner Critic Tar Pit of Doom and Despair—the black hole of fear in your head that says you have nothing new or exciting to say or that even if you are personally excited by what you’ve written, it’s not good enough for someone else to read or hear.  The Tar Pit of Doom and Despair is a creative quicksand that will sink the soul right out of your writing, further feeding the fear of mediocrity. The only way to escape this pit is to get out of your head.  I’ve found doing timed free writes is a great way to do this. When your time is restricted, you don’t have time to obsess over a word or a phrase and there simply isn’t enough time to polish. There is something freeing and reassuring about that.  And having a time…

Book Reviews

Charmian Kittredge London: Trailblazer, Author, Adventurer

Carl Rollyson’s review of Charmian Kittredge London: Trailblazer, Author, Adventurer by Iris Jamahl Dunkle. Not often does a biography begin with a villain—a biographer no less. In a rousing opening, Iris Jamahl Dunkle has Irving Stone explode on the scene, romancing Jack London’s widow, Charmian Kittredge London, and dancing her into cooperating with his desire to write a biography, Sailor on Horseback (1938), which casts the woman as the femme fatale that, in effect, drives her husband Jack to suicide. Dunkle’s book might well be titled “Justice to Charmian.”  . . . . . .  Dunkle, who gets on with her story in a lively fashion, feeding our appetite for the fascinating account that supplants Stone’s melodrama. Although Jack London, the writer as adventurer, might overwhelm anyone else’s own story, Dunkle manages to depict her subject in the round, as Charmian saw herself and as others responded to her. Here is…

Places to submit

Tiny Love Stories

Modern Love is a weekly New York Times column, a book, a podcast — and now, in its 16th year, a television show — about relationships, feelings, betrayals and revelations. What kind of love story can you share in two tweets, an Instagram caption or a Facebook post? Tell us a love story from your own life — happy or sad, capturing a moment or a lifetime — in no more than 100 words. Include a picture taken by you that complements your narrative, whether a selfie, screenshot or snapshot. We seek to publish the most funny and heart-wrenching entries we receive. We call them Tiny Love Stories. They are about as long as this paragraph. They must be true and unpublished. Love may be universal, but individual experiences can differ immensely, informed by factors such as race, socio-economic status, gender, disability status, nationality, sexuality, age, religion and culture. As…